Blogging by the Bushel
With numerous challenges over the past several years for producers, we at Mercer Landmark understand the need for a comprehensive risk management solution. We seek to provide our customers with unparalleled service to ensure maximum results.

Archive for February, 2015

By: Jason Diller

A common question many producers have is useful ways to incorporate their yield monitor data.  One such use would be to use it as a layer in their fertility recommendations. In the P205 recommendation chart to the side, taken from the “Tri-State Fertility Guide” you can see that the recommendation is based on two main inputs: soil test value and yield expectation. Instead of using a flat yield expectation across the field, yield monitor data can be incorporated to account for yield variations within the field. To most effectively use yield monitor data we can employ three techniques: raw data cleaning, multi-year averaging and normalization

Multi-year averaging-   Combining any number of year’s data to form a historical average.

Normalization- Turning actual yield to a percent of the field average.

Normalization can be especially useful when you want to use an expected yield that is not the actual average. For example, a producer with only one year of data from 2014 with an average of 205 bu./A could pick a lower expected yield for 2015, by normalizing the data.

How does yield monitor data effect my final recommendation versus using a flat yield expectation?

It depends on the amount of yield fluctuation.  Consider the below example:

Normalized Yield:                 Rec. with Normalized Yield Input            Rec. with Flat Yield Input

While the total amount of product remains unchanged, using the actual yield drops the amount of 11-52-0 in a low producing area to 0#/A and raised the amount applied in higher producing areas by 20-40#/A. A similar effect would also be seen in the 0-0-60 recommendation.


� While using actual yield will result in a relatively small change in any one product or application, these small amounts can compound over multiple applications.

� Consider using yield monitor data if your yield swings more than 50 bu./A in corn and 15 bu./A in sbeans.

� Corn and sbeans have very different removal rates/fertility requirements. Normalization to combine sbean and corn yields is not recommended for fertility recommendations.

High crop yields, wet harvest, and low grain prices makes the “store or sell” decision pretty easy for farmers across the country. Filling up those grain bins with hope that prices will bounce back means more management and an influx of grain bin accidents reported.

After a wet harvest in 2009, grain bins were full and the number of accidents reported soared — hitting a record of 59 grain entrapments and 26 U.S. workers killed in 2010.

Grain Bin Safety Week is February 22-28, 2015. This week is dedicated to raising awareness of grain bin dangers and safeguards that can protect farmers and save the lives of those who work to feed our world every day.

By: Ryan Stucke

Roots do more than just anchor plants in the soil.  They are the source that takes up moisture and nutrients allowing the stalk, leaves and ears to develop.  Another aspect that roots are very important in is the standability.  Which is why it is also very important to have the right planting depth, and to make sure that those roots systems are planted deep and securely enough in the ground.

Factors That Can Influence Roots Development and Yield Potential

  • Roots need to grow downward into the soil rather than laterally.
  • Roots need to grow in a manner that puts less strain on the plant; the less uptake of water and nutrients will therefore effect ear production in the long run.
  • Roots need the ability to reach deep if water conditions demand it (2012).

Here are 5 Tips to Improve Root Performance

  • Early planting puts stress on root development, cool soils can possibly stunt early root growth and development
  • Using some kind of tillage to expose and warm up the soil can help improve root development.
  • Avoiding compaction will allow those roots to grow downward and out more easily therefore up taking more nutrients and water.
  • Corn rootworm protection traits can also help roots stay healthier and grow more efficient
  • Seed treatment can help provide a better early-season growing environment

By: Jeff Keller

Any time of year is a good time to be thinking of your alfalfa fields. This might be getting a field ready for a new stand or managing the stand you have.

For the new stand of alfalfa, starting 1-2 years ahead is essential. This is primarily because it allows you time to get the PH levels adjusted. Getting that PH in the 6.8 to 7.0 range is crucial to allow nutrient availability and calcium levels needed for proper alfalfa growth. Potash is a key nutrient used to jumpstart fertility and starting with your levels above average (350- 400) is going to help you through the next four years of that crop. Having Phosphorous levels at 40-60 lbs. per acre is also key.

Weed control cannot be put on the back burner.  The weed pressure from years past will carry on to that hay crop.  Therefore, to keep the field clean when starting a new crop you may consider Round-Up Ready or planting a cover crop such as oats. When going with oats you may consider killing them when they are six inches tall to allow for the alfalfa to grow. Growers are reluctant to do this because they lose out on those tons of oats for feed that year.  Research, though, shows how over the next few years there will be more quality tons than if they would have kept those oats for the first establishment year.

Another control factor is insects and disease. Start with a variety that has good disease resistance to Antracnose, Fusarium, and Phytopthora. A seed coating of Apron and Stammen helps greatly. Scouting for insects during the production year is also important. Watch closely for alfalfa weevil in the spring and potato leafhopper throughout summer.  A useful threshold method is: number of leafhoppers in sweep net after ten sweeps is larger than inches of height of the crop warrants treatment.  So 6 inch alfalfa will need sprayed when there are more than 6 leafhoppers after 10 sweeps. For any of your alfalfa needs make sure to contact your local Mercer Landmark Agronomist.

U.S. farmers will plant slightly less soybeans this year than the record acreage of 2014 and will plant more corn than originally projected, said the Agriculture Department at its Outlook Forum on Thursday in Washington, D.C.

USDA chief economist Robert Johansson said, “Soybean area is expected to fall modestly from its record area in 2014 to 83.5 million acres, with movement out of soybeans tempered by its lower operating costs and forward marketing opportunities in the past few months.”

Corn plantings are projected at 89.0 million acres this spring, down 1.6 million acres from 2014 and 8.2 million acres below its recent peak in 2012. Soy plantings totaled 83.7 million acres last year.

Wheat plantings, at 55.5 million acres, are projected to be 1.3 million acres below the 2014 figure.

Johansson’s figures, based on current conditions, were revisions from USDA’s projections released in December. Those called for 88 million acres of corn, 84 million acres of soybeans and 56 million acres of wheat.

“Row crop prices have declined significantly from record highs in recent years but remain well above levels seen in the early 2000s,” said Johansson in a speech that opened the two-day conference.

USDA said season-average prices for the three major field crops will be slightly higher than expected in December. USDA now projects farm-gate prices of $3.50 a bushel for corn, $9 a bushel for soybeans and $5.10 a bushel for wheat. The corn and wheat prices are 10 cents higher than USDA”s initial projections and soybeans were 50 cents higher.

November Soybean Chart

November futures have rallied some $.48 cents off the Jan 30th low. This rally has now re-couped 50% of the loss from the early January highs. There is overhead resistance at the 100 day MA of $9.89, with additional resistance at $9.96 ½ and again at the Jan 15 high of $9.98 ¾. At this point it is a difficult road to press beans back to a $10 mark… Look at the $9.85 to $9.96 level to place additional sales.

March Corn Chart

Taking a quick look at the March chart, there has been a lot of overhead resistance in the low $3.90’s. There is the high of $3.92 ½ from Jan 21st, and then a couple of day later futures pulled within a penny of that level. The 50 day MA is just above at $3.94.

December Corn Chart

This chart looks a lot like the March chart… except that it is challenging its resistance a bit harder. We have the high on February 9th at $4.21 ¾ serving as resistance, along with the 50 day MA at $4.20 ¾. Support is back in the $4.11 area. Placing sales above the running average makes increasing sense.

Need to catch up? Here are some food, agriculture and farm stories you might have missed this week.

1. Make your election. Farm bill decision time nears, but what programs are others choosing and why? See the results of our survey on Farm Futures Now. Farm Futures

2. Lots of trade issues. USDA’s Tom Vilsack says the agency is working on a variety of ag trade issues, including COOL, TPP and talks with China. Farm Futures

3. Who will be the future of farming? Communities worry they won’t be able to secure agriculture teachers. Minneapolis Star Tribune

4. Top seedstock producers. BEEF Magazine has listed its top 100 seedstock producers in the beef industry, complete with contact info. BEEF

5. World Cup of drones. New UAV bounces off objects, makes for safer flying, creators say. Bloomberg

6. Protection order. Groups have been granted a protective order against the U.S. EPA, stopping it from sharing ag producers’ information to environmental groups. Farm Progress

7. West Coast port issues continue. Disruptions roll on at 29 West Coast ports as workers’ and employers’ attempts to hammer out contract details stall. New York Times (We have a primer on the issue if you need to catch up: 5 things to know about WC ports.)

Article from Dairy Herd Management

It’s no surprise that 2014’s strong milk prices and moderating feed prices resulted in dairy herd expansion.

USDA released its semi-annual Cattle report on Jan. 30, including survey-based estimates of U.S. dairy cows, replacement heifers and heifers expected to calve within the next year.

As of Jan. 1, 2015, milk cows during the previous year were estimated at 9.307 million head, up 99,300 head (1%) from Jan. 1, 2014, and the highest Jan. 1 total since 2009.

Dairy replacement heifers (>500 lbs.), at 4.615 million head, were up 66,700 head from a year ago, and about equal to the total on Jan. 1, 2012.

Based on those estimates, there were 49.6 heifers >500 lbs. per 100 cows as of Jan. 1, 2015, up about 0.2 heifer/100 cows from 2014’s revised estimate.

Of those total dairy replacement heifers, 2.997 million head are expected to calve in 2015, up 30,500 from 2014. As of Jan. 1, 2015, there were 32.2 replacements expected to calve in 2015 for every 100 cows currently in the U.S. herd, about the same as a year ago.

USDA’s semi-annual Cattle report includes both beef and dairy cattle inventory estimates, based on January 2015 surveys of about 38,200 livestock operations across the U.S.

U.S. dairy cows and heifers, Jan. 1, 2014-2015
Milk cows that calved

(1,000 head)

Dairy heifers 500 lbs.

& over (1,000 head)

Percent of

previous year


2014 2015 2014 2015
Alabama 9 8 89 4 3
Alaska 0.3 0.3 100 0.1 0.1
Arizona 192 195 102 74 65
Arkansas 8 7 88 5 4
California 1,780 1,780 100 750 750
Colorado 140 145 104 100 100
Connecticut 19 19 100 9 8
Delaware 4.7 5 106 2.6 2.5
Florida 123 124 101 35 35
Georgia 80 81 101 25 25
Hawaii 2.2 2.2 100 1 1
Idaho 565 579 102 270 300
Illinois 95 94 99 45 50
Indiana 178 181 102 68 78
Iowa 205 210 102 120 130
Kansas 136 143 105 100 80
Kentucky 68 63 93 45 45
Louisiana 15 14 93 5 5
Maine 30 30 100 17 16
Maryland 50 50 100 25 24
Massachusetts 12 12.5 104 7.5 7
Michigan 381 403 106 164 167
Minnesota 460 460 100 280 280
Mississippi 13 12 92 6 6
Missouri 90 89 99 50 60
Montana 14 14 100 9 7
Nebraska 53 54 102 20 20
Nevada 29 28 97 9 9
N. Hampshire 13.5 14 104 7 5.5
New Jersey 7 7 100 3 3.8
New Mexico 323 323 100 120 105
New York 615 615 100 355 350
North Carolina 45 47 104 20 18
North Dakota 17 16 94 10 6
Ohio 267 268 100 130 125
Oklahoma 45 40 89 20 25
Oregon 124 125 101 60 60
Pennsylvania 530 530 100 315 305
Rhode Island 0.9 0.9 100 0.5 0.5
South Carolina 16 15 94 6 5
South Dakota 95 98 103 50 65
Tennessee 46 47 102 30 25
Texas 440 470 107 220 240
Utah 95 96 101 46 48
Vermont 132 132 100 56 56
Virginia 93 93 100 40 43
Washington 266 277 104 125 133
West Virginia 9 9 100 5 4
Wisconsin 1,270 1,275 100 680 710
Wyoming 6 6 100 4 5
United States 9,207.60 9,306.90 101 4,548.70 4,615.40
(Heifers expected to calve during 2015) 2,966.70 2,997.20
Source: USDA National Ag Statistics Service, Jan. 30, 2015

By: Mike Niederman

Have you ever wondered how much nitrogen was lost from that recent rain or how much rain fell on the fields over at the other farm?  There are now tools that allow you to access that information right on your computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Climate Basic is a free tool that allows you to view historical, real-time, and forecasted weather at the field level as well as the current growth stages, growing degree days, soil moisture, and grain moisture.  You can also receive notifications to allow you to keep an eye on changing conditions and generate reports such as production reports.  The final thing available in Climate Basic is a scouting feature that allows you to capture images and take notes for each field.

Climate Pro includes a Nitrogen Advisor and a Field Health Advisor that provide important insights to allow you to make more informed decisions.  The Nitrogen Advisor allows you to see nitrogen levels based on applications, crop stage, and weather events.  The Field Health Advisor uses in-season and historical field imaging to evaluate crop health and identify any issues.

By: Kyle Imwalle – Mercer Landmark Agronomist

Before we know it winter will be gone and alfalfa will be coming out of dormancy. Sadly, alfalfa won’t be the only thing coming out of dormancy, chickweed and other winter annuals will be also.  Unlike corn and soybeans, alfalfa has a limited number of herbicides, and most of them can only be applied to alfalfa after it goes dormant.  One product that can be applied to dormant alfalfa is Sencor.  Sencor is used for control of certain grasses and broadleaf weeds.

After the first cutting is made, however, chickweed generally is not a problem.  So then why would you worry about chickweed?  If the stand is thin due to chickweed summer annuals can and will become established in your fields and compete with you alfalfa for the rest of the season. Sencor will also take care of other problem alfalfa weeds such as shepherdspurse and purple deadnettle, both of which are unpalatable for cattle.

According to Purdue University a chickweed control program should start when seeding the alfalfa. Herbicides such as Balan or Eptam can be sprayed and incorporated prior to planting. Also a fall or spring herbicide application should be applied once the alfalfa is dormant.  Purdue University conducted a study of different alfalfa control by timing and product.

% Chickweed Control
Herbicide* Average of two years
Sencor – Fall 91
Sencor – Spring 99
Velpar – Fall 88
Velpar – Spring 98
Kerb – Fall 92
Gramoxone – Spring 79**
* Fall treatments applied during the months of November and December.
Spring treatments applied during March.

Purdue University also tested to see how these products affected stand height.

Injury Observations
Value represents the percent of the total herbicide replicates for
that year and that displayed visual stunting (5-10%) compared to
untreated plots. For example, in 1991, 28% of the fall-applied Sencor
plots (8 of 28) had visual stunting.
Herbicide %                of Replicates – 1991 % of Replicates – 1992
Sencor – Fall                           28 0
Sencor – Spring                     0 0
Velpar – Fall                             50 0
Velpar – Spring                        17 0
Gramoxone – Spring               14 0

As you can see a spring application of Sencor is the best product for controlling chickweed and not stunting your alfalfa field.

Talk with your local Mercer Landmark Agronomist today creating an herbicide program to help maximize your yield potential.